As April settles in, many people are preparing for midterms or finals.  It can be a pretty stressful time as you try to shove a quarter or semester worth of information into your brain before the big test/project/assignment, so I thought I’d offer you some of my favorite unconventional study tips.  These tips will help reduce the stress as you prepare to study:

Keep Your Homework On Your Desk: For those of us that are masters at the art of procrastination, just having to put out the effort to set up for a long study session, research project, or paper can be the excuse you need to avoid working.  So lay out all of your textbooks, notes, pens, whatever you need to get the work done.  I like to put it all out and then walk away so I have a break to clear my mind  before I study.  Sometimes that means I put all of the stuff out before bed or before a meal.  Sometimes it means I put everything out before my favorite TV show comes on.  Whatever time period works for you, put everything out before you have to study.  However, this tip can also backfire if you keep your desk in your room.  It can start to feel like your work and to-do list never leaves you and make you feel overwhelmed.

Have Something to Munch and Crunch: I cannot study without food and a drink by my side.  If I try to get any sort of work done without something tasty by my side, I don’t get any work done.  Somehow, my stomach will find a way to growl at max volume and my mouth will become super dry.  It isn’t long before I can’t think straight and my productive work hour has gone out the window.  When I am in need of a productive day, I always make sure I have my favorite beverage (like a hot cup of green tea) and something crunchy to munch on (like homemade cranberry chocolate chip trail mix).

Change The Scenery: When all else fails, change your surroundings.  If you normally study in your dorm or apartment, go out to the school library.  Or try a nearby Starbucks.  Or maybe you have a favorite little hole-in-the-wall diner with great coffee.  Even studying outside in the sunshine can be a great way to reenergize your study routine.  Whatever you do, don’t pick a trigger zone to study in.  A trigger zone is a place that will trigger distraction.  For example, don’t study in bed because you’ll start to realize how comfortable it is to study in bed and will end up wanting to take a nap rather than do your work.  And don’t study in a place with clear view of the cute guy in your Spanish class – you’ll just end up staring at him like an idiot for an hour and not get any work done.

Take Breaks: Sometimes, especially around midterm and finals times, you just need to give your brain a rest.  The best way to make sure it doesn’t become too much of a break is to know how long you can efficiently study before you need a distraction.  For me, this is generally around 40 to 45 minutes of good study time before my brain begins to wander.  Rather than constantly try to fight to stay focused, I take this opportunity to stand up, stretch, walk around, and just let my brain wander.  I’ll try watch a little TV, casually draw, or think about fun plans for the weekend.  The key here is to limit this break to no more than 15 or 20 minutes.  And whatever you do, don’t go on Facebook to innocently check up on your friends – you’ll somehow end up spending hours on the internet laughing at pointless cat comics (like this one) or playing a game of Draw Something with your friends.

What are your favorite study tips?

[Photo Credit: Used by Flickr User Sterlic by using C.C. Attribution 2.0 Generic]